Rainforests in Belize
Rainforest still covers most of Belize, although farming, logging and frequent hurricanes mean the forest is not as untouched as it appears. The timber industry has also had a lot of influence.
Early logging in Belize
From 1630 to 1770, timber was harvested in Belize by coloniolists and their slaves. Trees were cut into logs and then pulled by cattle to rivers where they were carried to the coast.
From 1770, Mahogany was the main species exploited. Steam engines were used to transport the logs to large rivers. Coloniolists grew rich from exporting the wood.
The decline of logging in Belize
From around 1900 until the 1960s Mahogany, Cedar and Santa Marìa were selectively logged. Now, few old Mahogany trees are left standing, making it uneconomical to log them - however, logging of other trees still takes place.
Belize has a wide range of native cultures. However, when the logging and oil industries move in native Mayan people are pushed off their land. The result is the loss of Mayan culture and the forest ecosystem.
The value of rainforests
About 80% of forests in Belize are intact, unlike the rest of Central America, and the country benefits from the resulting ecotourism. Local people benefit from the sale of small-scale crafts using materials from the rainforest.
Other countries must follow Belize's conservation strategy to preserve rainforests, as they:
- produce oxygen, so are the lungs of the world
- reduce pollutants e.g. carbon dioxide, which causes global warming
- contain many species of intrinsic value
- are a potential source of medicines.
Scientists are still only just beginning to catalogue the species in the rainforests. Here, a plant specimen is being collected for naming in a museum.
Rainforests threatened - around the world
In Sumatra, forest is still being clear-felled. The land is used for farmland or oil palm plantations, but 1/3 is left to become barren scrub. Most clear-felled hardwoods are used to make wood pulp.
Article Date: 24 July 2007